Once I found a room that looked comfortable enough for me, I went inside, leaving the door open. There was another room directly across the hall that Bobby could camp out in and still be able to see me sleeping on the bed. I was worried something would find me or worse that I'd pop out while sleeping. There wasn't anything that Bobby could do in the event I popped out of the bed, but if something came for me I would appreciate the help of Bobby. His being a werewolf did have something to do with that notion. Plus while walking down the hallways with him from Uncle Harry's room I'd had time to see he was rock solid muscle. His eyes were still wide from my asking him to watch me sleep.
"Esmeralda, what do you think could get you here?" He spoke softly.
"I don't know. I just know I'm vulnerable when I sleep and I am so exhausted I can't even think straight right now," I answered the werewolf.
Bobby hadn't shown me his other shape, but instinctively I knew it was an excellent one. Besides, Angus and Uncle Harry trusted him with me so I'd have to take that as a good enough reason to do so also. His face was half covered by his hair -- it kept falling in front of his eyes and he peered through the russet-colored veil with a frown.
"Okay, I'll be in the bedroom across the hall." It was what I'd planned, but I let him think it was his idea.
"Thanks, sounds great." I hitched my backpack off my shoulder and tossed it on the end of the bed. The queen-sized mattress called me and I just pulled off my shoes and lay down on top of the bedspread without getting beneath the sheets. I wanted to be ready for anything. I had barely put my head down on the pillow and shut my eyes when I felt my body shake. My eyes flew open and I saw I hadn't gone anywhere but was just exhausted. Sighing, I willed my body to relax and shut my eyes again. I heard Bobby grumble something and then it all went away.
I don't even think I dreamed, I slept so deeply.
The next thing I felt was an awakening feeling. Not me, but like everything in the house was aware of all the creatures inside the walls, me included. I had flipped away from open door in my sleep and was now facing the mini-blinds and window covering. There was a prickling feeling on the back of my neck and I slowly turned to see Bobby standing in the doorway.
"Sorry to wake you up, but did you just feel something?" His voice wasn't exactly a whisper but pretty close. He was frightened, I could tell, but trying to stay strong for me. I thought it was sweet.
"Yeah, I think Uncle Harry is up and around looking for us." It was the only thing I could think of as what had happened. I didn't feel any sense of danger, just awake.
I reached out softly with my mind and found Uncle Harry's thoughts. I was right; he was looking for us. I looked around the room and thought where I was, then pushed him out of my mind. It wasn't more than a minute when I felt a ripple of awareness and Bobby turned from the doorway and said, "Hey, Harry."
The relief coming off Bobby was nearly visible. He'd been scared. I found it curious that he hadn't shifted to whatever sort of werewolf he was. Maybe his furry side knew it was just Uncle Harry. Otherwise it meant that Bobby wasn't the best bodyguard for me much less babysitter. I kept my face still and dropped my eyes not wanting to poke the wolf in him. That would be bad, I knew without asking.
"Here you are. Did you have a good rest, Emma?" He arched an eyebrow at me as I sat up and put my shoes back on. I arched my back and stretched saying, "Yes, thank you for asking, Uncle Harry."
Smiling he joined Bobby in the doorway and said, "Such a polite young lady. That's rare."
Grinning back I rubbed my face as I unsuccessfully tried to bite back a yawn. "Excuse me, let me wash my face and I'll meet you both in the kitchen."
Verbally I edged them both out of the room as it dawned on them I needed a bit of privacy. Sheepishly they both flew out of the door and down the hall. The room had a small bathroom and I took the time to clean up and brush my teeth and get organized. The nap had revitalized me. I hefted my backpack over my shoulder, not willing to abandon my few remaining possessions, and headed to the kitchen.
Bobby was back at the table with a huge plate of meat in front of him. Uncle Harry was standing by the sink sipping a glass of what I hoped was red wine. I didn't feel up to asking if it anything else. I went back to the fridge and pulled out a container of peach yogurt. Uncle Harry handed me a spoon and I joined Bobby.
"Now what?" I asked while scraping the sides of the plastic. I'd been hungrier than I'd thought.
"We begin to teach you." Uncle Harry replied while sipping.
And they did. Uncle Harry had my school records transferred and I finished out high school in Southern California.
I learned more than just reading, writing and arithmetic.
** ** **
Sitting in the dirt, looking at the quickly drying cave, I wondered what else in my past could help me get out of my current mess. Uncle Harry and his library definitely had helped me learn things not usually found on bookshelves of local bookstores or the basements of college libraries. I knew that for a fact since I tended to go to libraries to do research on finding my pretties. There'd been the salt mine in Michigan along with that little fiasco that had made me have to reach out for help. Yeah, that was not exactly my usual pop and sparkle. But Uncle Harry had anticipated my need before I'd even realized what a trap the salt mines were for me. I'd been in the middle of a growing winter storm when Uncle Harry had forced Riley, his pet werewolf, to fly out to me in Michigan. Definitely a learning experience for us all, I'd long decided.
** ** **
The cold weather had set in for real and showed no signs of breaking up. The Weather Channel had put up some nasty maps letting me know that there'd be more than a little snow falling on top of the foot-plus of snow already on the ground. I found frost on the window when I'd got up that morning, a couple hours ago. Looking outside I could see that while I'd been reading my notes and studying the diagrams, the snow had piled up behind the car and I groaned. I couldn't see anyone hanging outside with a large snow blower or a handy shovel ready to earn a few bucks and help me. I knew that meant I was the 'it' girl and would have to unbury the car before heading to the airport to find Riley. Groaning, I went to the small hall closet just by the front door and pulled out the large winter coat I'd been forced to purchase after I hit Michigan. I didn't have a single piece of clothing from Florida or California that was warm enough.
Along with the heavy coat, I'd also picked up boots, gloves and a wool cap when shopping, all of which I put on along with a pair of thermal pants and long-sleeved flannel shirt. I layered my clothes like it was thirty below zero not a mere twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit -- which most locals considered shorts and tank top weather. It wasn't severe weather to the natives, but it was horrifically cold as far as I was concerned. Riley's various Southwest planes had been delayed on and off during his red-eye flight from San Diego. He had texted me from one such stop with a profanity-laced set of comments about the flight and the passengers on his flights. I didn't see any need to reply but I knew I had to dig the car out and hit Wal-Mart for supplies before I picked up a grumpy werewolf at the Detroit airport.
Twenty-four hours ago Riley hadn't known he'd be flying out to Michigan to 'help' me (at Uncle Harry's request) if I ran into any troubles in the salt mines. Thus he hadn't followed any of the werewolf-required protocol about entering another werewolf pack's territory. I had read some stuff online in the supernatural internet corner of cyberspace that mentioned a few weeks of bowing and begging along with money and promises of backing during turf wars and land disputes. Werewolves had a complex set of rules and regulations that guided their everyday interactions, along with the other, more specific events like flying into another werewolf's territory. I'd never survive such a hierarchal supernatural set of laws and thankfully, since it seemed that I was pretty much the only one like me, I didn't have to obey and bow to others.
Reluctantly I gathered up my backpack and headed out to my buried car. The passenger side door was not as buried as the driver's side, so I quickly dug out the door and popped open the door and tossed my backpack inside. Not being stupid, I dug out the exhaust pipe then turned on the car. I hit the defrost button and closed the door and began the hard work of clearing the car from the blanket of heavy wet snow. Nobody was outside. I didn't blame them because it wasn't snowing, but it was really cold. Okay, more than 'really' and on the edge of stupid cold. Even with all my new winter garb I could still feel the icy weather sneaking in and draining me. The sky was steel gray and I could feel the new storm approaching. I kept digging and soon was able to drive down the slick, icy streets.
My trip to Wal-Mart was weird. I had a specific list of things I needed to help me with the potential of bad werewolves wanting to slaughter me and also the items I'd need for my trip to the salt mines. Recalling the voracious appetites of werewolves I stopped by the meat section and picked up about twenty pounds of meat. I didn't know how long Riley was staying so I also went over to the wine section and picked up a case of mediocre wines. He wouldn't be drunk, but with the wine he could take the edge off his pissed-off personality.
Riley was pretty claustrophobic from everything I'd read online and what I'd discovered talking to him. He'd been angry that I'd mentioned it to Uncle Harry, but I hadn't wanted him to send Riley out to 'help' me. Naturally he hadn't done any of the prep work to show up unannounced in Michigan. That was why I went to Wal-Mart to shop for various bits and pieces to protect me from angry werewolves.
Wal-Mart on a normal day was freaky enough but in the middle of a snowstorm with the potential to become a full fledged blizzard it was beyond bizarre. People were rushing up and down the small aisles tossing anything they spotted into their shopping carts -- or 'buggies' as they called them in Florida and around the East Coast -- and it was all I could do to keep from laughing aloud at the choices. Water, toilet paper, canned foods and flashlights I got ... but they were tossing in stuff that had little to do with survival like cleaning supplies, dishwasher soap, DVD movies and other such things. I had no idea what they thought was going to happen if a winter white out happened shutting down the electricity. I picked up blankets along with the werewolf supplies. Thinking about it I also found a large cooler and a few bags of ice. I'd keep them outside and if the power went out the meat would be tossed inside the cooler for Riley. I knew better than letting a werewolf go unfed.